Sunday, 16 February 2014

Glad To Be Gay

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(Sing If You're) Glad To Be Gay
by Dr Louise Chambers

Back in 1977, the Tom Robinson Band (TRB) issued a live EP on the back of their first hit single, 2-4-6-8 Motorway. The EP comprised four tracks and one of them would, in the history of rock music, be landmarks because it celebrated gay sexuality.

(Sing if You're) Glad To Be Gay was originally written for London Pride in 1976 and the lyrics, like many of Robinson’s songs, are politically explicit and re-printed in all their glory on the right of this page. The lyrics were certainly too explicit for the BBC, who refused to play the track. Venues featuring punk and New Wave bands, however, were not so reluctant, and I remember many occasions when I would be among a crowd of punks and happily engaging in a pre-gig sing-a-long to Glad To Be Gay. Unfortunately, TRB’s history was rather shortlived.

After releasing the very politically oriented and powerful album, Power In The Darkness in 1978, the follow-up, TRB2, was much less successful and, following the usual ‘musical differences’, the band fell apart at the end of 1979. Sadly, BBC Radio listeners will always link TRB with their blandest single (2-4-6-8 Motorway) which was played incessantly on Radio One. For some of us, however, Glad To Be Gay was the first gunshot in the battle to get explicitly queer music on the radio and on TV.

TRB in 1976 (Tom is second from right)
As for Tom Robinson, he went on to enjoy a solo career and, at a benefit for Gay Switchboard, he met and married Sue, with whom he has had two children. Of course, the idiot tabloid press claimed that Robinson had ‘gone straight’, an accusation he refuted by adding the following lyric to Glad to be Gay on the 1996 album, Having It Both Ways:
"Well if gay liberation means freedom for all,
a label is no liberation at all.
I'm here and I'm queer and do what I do,
I'm not going to wear
a straitjacket for you.

Robinson has described himself as ‘a gay man in love with a woman, and in 2010, said:
“I still like both men and women... always have, and probably always will. This site was first put together to promote my album Having It Both Ways (1) in 1996, but it's here now to celebrate the fact that sexuality is a lot wider, looser and more unpredictable than some people would have you believe...”

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